Brian Ruberry has always loved football and has been known to watch a romantic comedy or two with his family.
He likes the easy, feel-good plots — but he never thought of himself as the kind of guy who would be counting the days until he could curl up on the sofa to watch Christmas movies on cable television.
Then, in his own life, an unexpected plot twist occurred: he wrote a Christmas movie screenplay and it was made into a film.
It took 40 years to complete.
When Ruberry’s film “Single and Ready to Jingle” premiered on Lifetime on December 11, he watched from his sofa in Kensington, Md., with his wife and grown children. The story revolves around a woman who plans a trip to a singles resort but ends up in a Christmas-obsessed town in Alaska — and falls in love with a man there.
“I’d say people are surprised when they learn I’m writing movies from Kensington, Maryland,” Ruberry said. “However, they are not as surprised as I am. “I always imagined myself playing football.”
Ruberry, 66, is hitting his stride four decades after attempting to write screenplays for movies for the first time.
“If you want to be a writer, you have to accept a lot of rejection,” he said, noting that he was rejected more than 100 times before his first television movie script was accepted in 2021.
“All of that rejection only fueled my determination to prove everyone wrong,” he said.
“Single and Ready to Jingle” is Ruberry’s second film of the year.
He was harassed because he had a Black Santa on his lawn. He’s now a professional Black Santa.
He also wrote the script for “The Attraction Test,” an UpTV film about a college professor who takes her own dating questionnaire that aired in April. Another of his rom-com scripts, “Stepping into Love,” was recently adapted into a film. A network for that has yet to be announced.
Ruberry grew up in the Chicago area before moving to Alexandria, Virginia, as a teen to play football for Bishop Ireton High School, a private Roman Catholic school.
“I had no interest in writing, but I was a good athlete, and football was my passion,” he explained.
Ruberry had high hopes when he made the James Madison University football team as a linebacker that a successful college career would one day lead him to the NFL.
Then, during his first year on the team, he was sidelined by a shoulder injury.
“I couldn’t play football anymore, and I couldn’t make it as a biology major,” he explained. “When we got to chemistry, the math was beyond my comprehension.
One of his professors nominated his short stories for a university annual academic award, which Ruberry won two years in a row.
“Just like that, I discovered this new passion,” he explained. “When I graduated, I decided I wanted to write sitcoms for television.”
Nobody was interested in adopting the dog with only one ear — until he started painting.
He’d always enjoyed watching television shows like “Get Smart” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” so these were entertaining scripts.
Ruberry received a master’s degree in film from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in 1981. However, he quickly discovered that breaking into Hollywood as a scriptwriter was a frustrating slog filled with endless rejections.
“I missed my girlfriend, so I returned to the D.C. area,” he explained. “In the late ’80s, I wrote a musical called ‘Monster of Muldoon,’ which played for a month in Georgetown, and every now and then, I’d write a screenplay and try to sell it.”
He said he didn’t have as much time for writing after getting a job in public relations, getting married, and having two children.
Ruberry found love again after his marriage ended in divorce with Helen Beven, a personal trainer he met in 2005 while they were both training for a marathon.
Ruberry’s marriage proposal, according to Beven, was straight out of a Hollywood script.
“He proposed to me at the end of the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C.,” Beven, 57, said. “He ran the entire race with the ring on his finger, and when he finally caught up to me, I had to say ‘yes.'”
Ruberry’s passion for writing, as well as his sense of humor, impressed Beven.
“Every year, he’d write this hilarious Christmas letter and send it to everyone,” she explained. “And he’s been working on scripts for as long as I’ve known him.”
A strange person called. He had Holocaust-era photos of her family.
Ruberry then decided to try selling a screenplay again in 2019.
“I read in a magazine that Hallmark and Lifetime produce dozens of original television movies each year,” he explained. “I’m not a fan of writing that ends with a kiss. But I enjoy romantic comedies. So, after watching a few Hallmark movies, I wrote one of those.”
According to Ruberry, many romantic comedies follow the same three beats: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back.
“I decided to keep my new script as unique as possible by writing a romance that could actually happen in real life,” he explained. “Nobody I’ve ever met ran into somebody on the street and started up a romance, so I stayed away from that. My main goal was to bring the comedy back into romantic comedies.”
His script’s plot revolved around a record store owner who rents out her guesthouse for the holidays, and her new renter — a country singer — helps save her store from financial ruin. Of course, the two fall in love.
Ruberry stated that he contacted the screenwriter who had written the magazine story he’d read, and she agreed to look over the script.
“She emailed a week later and said, ‘I think we can sell this,'” he said. “Only one person is required to open the door. I couldn’t believe I’d be paid to do something I’d wanted to do my entire life.”
Although that script has yet to be sold, UpTV, an uplifting cable channel, purchased Ruberry’s script for “The Attraction Test” last year. Ruberry stated that after that one sold, he decided to continue writing scripts.
Barbara Fisher, producer of “The Attraction Test,” said she was intrigued by Ruberry’s ideas and asked him to write a screenplay using “Single and Ready to Jingle” as the title.
“I was willing to find a story for it if they wanted one,” Ruberry said.
He claimed to have awoken the next morning with an idea about a woman who is a single toy company executive. She decides to escape Christmas by flying to St. John in the Virgin Islands, but an assistant books her on a flight to St. John, Alaska, where the town celebrates Christmas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Of course, she runs into the brother of the innkeeper where she is staying,” Ruberry explained. “There’s also a snowstorm, which is preventing flights from leaving.”
The producer loved his script right away.
“During the holidays, people want to escape with something fun,” said Fisher, executive vice president of scripted content at Real One Entertainment.
“Every network now has Christmas movies because it’s something the whole family can watch,” she explained. “No one seems to tire of them.”
After completing “Single and Ready to Jingle,” Fisher said she didn’t hesitate to hire Ruberry to write another Christmas screenplay for 2023.
“Brian is a talented writer with great ideas who is also a pleasure to work with,” she said. “Perhaps that is something that develops as a person matures.”
Ruberry stated that he frequently draws on personal experiences and relationships.
He can now write for eight hours a day and complete the first draft of a script in three or four weeks.
“If you have an idea, chances are it’s already been done,” he explained. “The ‘woman returns to her small town and rekindles her relationship with her old boyfriend’ theme has been done a thousand times.”
Looking back, Ruberry believes there was a time in middle school when he showed signs of what was to come.
“I didn’t have time to read a book for a book report, so I made up an entire pirate story,” he explained. “My teacher, Sister Thomas, thought it was fantastic and posted it on the bulletin board.”
He’s grateful she encouraged his creativity, which he’s combined with a healthy dose of endurance, he said.
“It’s taken a long time for me to get here,” Ruberry said. “However, it was well worth the wait.”